Midge and Lenny’s relationship in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is set on a crash course for tragedy, but that’s exactly why it’s perfect. From his first appearance in the Amazon series, Luke Kirby’s portrayal of famed comedian Lenny Bruce has been the enigmatic spark that ignited Miriam “Midge” Maisel’s career as a stand-up comic. While the majority of the show is fictional, Lenny Bruce was a real-life figure, and he died in 1966, which puts an expiration date not only on Kirby’s character but also on that character’s burgeoning affair with the titular protagonist.
In The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel season 1, episode 1, “Pilot,” the Lenny Bruce character made his debut as a fellow performer in New York City’s comedy scene whom Midge Maisel meets when she’s arrested for inappropriate conduct exhibited during her act. The series has since followed the duo from a loose and sporadic mentor-mentee acquaintance to a mutually reverent friendship. In season 4, episode 8, “How Do You Get To Carnegie Hall?” they consummated their slow-burning relationship and became lovers. Unfortunately for them, Lenny is fated to die of a morphine overdose in just six years’ time.
The tragedy of Midge and Lenny’s romance makes the entire spectacle beautiful. The ticking clock on his life makes every single moment the two characters have together far more precious because they’re numbered. Within the alternate history of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Kirby’s Lenny Bruce is a “fairy godmother” character — initially a guide for Midge as well as the first man in comedy to see her as an equal and peer. The real-life Lenny Bruce means trouble for Midge because of his addictions and eventual demise. Yet showrunners Amy Sherman-Palladino and Dan Palladino noticed the chemistry between the two characters and decided to take their relationship to the next level. The painful part is that they did this despite knowing that Lenny’s life would soon be coming to an end.
In the season 4 finale, Midge discovers Lenny’s bag of drugs, which will one day kill him, and the moment is captured as a freeze-frame of his future. A beautiful instance of love and connection is shattered as reality comes crashing into Midge’s life. This might seem jarring to ruin such a scene with the brutal reminder that The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel‘s Lenny Bruce will die, but the theme of Midge and Lenny’s relationship is beauty running beneath the pain. The men in Midge’s romantic life have never been the point of the show, its trajectory never to ultimately find her walking down the aisle again and living happily ever after. Lenny’s purpose in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel isn’t to be her endgame. It’s to be an invaluable mentor, a graceful colleague, and an intimate friend, but also an indelible memory for Midge to treasure as she progresses into the wider frame of her life.
Lenny Bruce is an ideal match for Midge in a myriad of ways that no other man on the show could rival. He shares her love for shameless wit and humor, and he respects and admires her in a sexist world where she is currently underestimated and scorned for her gender and choice of profession. After Lenny Bruce plays at Carnegie Hall, he was the voice of reason who calls her back down to reality in the season 4 finale. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel spun an incredible connection out of pure chemistry and happenstance, but a relationship with a known expiration date is as magical as it is tragic — every breath, every kiss, every stare is suspended in time, forever in eternity.
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